As you probably know there is an effort sponsored by UNEP (and supported
by western environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the
Earth) to curb the emissions of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which
would also limit the use of DDT even for control of malaria, which is and
has been one of India and the developing world's major scourges for
centuries, if not millenia. The next mtg of the POPs group is in early
December in South Africa.
There is a petition that is being circulated by "Save the Children from
Malaria Campaign" that would put people on record that they do not support
such a ban. Additional details are in the e-mail below.
I wonder if you could circulate this petition for signature amongst your
membership in agbioworld.
From: Kendra Okonski
Subject: Save Children From Malaria Campaign
We wanted to tell you about a public health coalition project called the
Save Children from Malaria Campaign. We hope that you will sign our
petition in support of limited use of DDT to prevent malaria, in light of
the UN POPs convention taking place next week in Johannesburg, South
Africa. The petition is located at
The coalition includes a South African NGO, Africa Fighting Malaria; the
Liberty Institute in Delhi, India; the European Science and Environment
Forum in Cambridge, UK; the Institute of Economic Affairs in London; and
the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. An article in
today's edition (11/29/00) of USA Today discusses our campaign
We have also just published a paper called "When Politics Kills: Malaria
and the DDT Story" which can be found in PDF format at
Malaria infects 400-500 million people every year, and up to 2.5 million
people die from malaria every year. This campaign is dedicated to
informing people about fighting and preventing malaria, in the context of
advancing free, prosperous and healthy societies. Africa Fighting Malaria
will participate at the POPs convention meeting to defend this limited use
We ask that you sign our petition to maintain the limited use of DDT for
fighting malaria. Please feel free to forward this to your email list,
and/or anyone who will support our efforts (whether they are
representatives of the public health community, doctors, economists,
scientists, or simply individuals).
Sign the petition http://www.fightingmalaria.org/petition.php
Read about the campaign http://www.fightingmalaria.org/about.htm
USA Today article http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20001129/2873637s.htm
If you have any questions or comments, or if you can help the campaign,
please get in touch with us. Thanks for your help!
Kendra Okonski firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subj: Re: "Contamination"
From: "Bob MacGregor"
The allele-frequency equilibrium calculation presented by Dr. Scoles
assumes that there are no differential selective pressures on the alleles.
For example, use of the target herbicide (say, to try to clean up
"volunteers" in a subsequent crop) might promote a higher proportion of
the HR alleles; conversely, any innate disadvantage of the HR allele
(refer back to Chuck Benbrook's numerous postings on "yield drag") would
tend to reduce the HR allele.
Along the lines of "contamination" and gene escape, I have noted several
time in recent postings to the various biotech lists that I subscribe to,
mention of the concern that GMOs are cannot be recalled once they are
released-- since they are alive and self-reproducing. This strikes me as
another red herring. If this argument were true, there would be no
concerns about extinction of species* which also have the capacity to
reproduce themselves* or, even, about loss of heritage varieties of
domesticated crops(eg landraces of rice). When people stop planting (and
pampering) these crop varieties, they die out. People can (and do) do
neglectful things that lead to the extirpation of wild species (most often
via habitat destruction), but hardly any of the major domestic crop
species can make it on their own; it isn't a matter of actively
undermining their survival* there is no "benign neglect" with these crops!
This leads me back to the aforementioned arguments by Benbrook about
yield drag. If there is some metabolic disadvantage resulting from a
transgene insert (like Bt or HR), then this will make the progeny of
accidental crosses (eg, escapes or contamination) less fit and, therefore,
the subject alleles will be likely to diminish in frequency in subsequent
generations. Without deliberate selection (eg, use of herbicides or saving
of "pure" Bt seed), these traits get diluted away. "Genetic contamination"
is largely a bi-product of the organic farming folks' decision to ban
GMOs; if they hadn't made this declaration, transgenic insect, virus and
fungus resistant varieties would dovetail very nicely with the
sustainable, low-input goals of the organic farming philosophy-- their
products might also store and ship better, cost less and look nicer on the
From: Susan Smith
Subject: USDA seeks public comment on biotech
Glickman Asks for Public Comments Regarding Biotech Debate
by Julianne Johnston
USDA Secretary Dan Glickman is asking for public comment whether USDA
should take any additional steps to facilitate the marketing of biotech
crops and help segregate these products from non-biotech products.
Glickman said in order to protect our domestic and foreign markets and
ensure public confidence, it's essential to have the ability to identify
and track biotech farm products. In remarks to USDA's Advisory Committee
on Agricultural Biotechnology, Glickman today said, "We want to provide a
forum where the best ideas on this subject can be presented." A notice to
be published in tomorrow's Federal Register invites public comment on how
USDA should help facilitate the marketing of grains, oilseeds, fruits,
vegetables and nuts in today's marketplace that includes biotech and
Some of the questions USDA seeks comment on include: · Should USDA be
involved in accrediting, reviewing or certifying the performance of food
company identity-preserved systems? · Should USDA establish biotech or
non-biotech crop definitions as part of the current U.S. quality grades
and standards? · Should USDA expand its accreditation of laboratories to
detect biotech grains and oilseeds to other biotech crops?
Glickman also said that USDA's Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards
Administration (GIPSA) will open a new biotechnology accreditation lab in
Kansas City, Missouri, in January to help standardize the identification
of biotechnology-derived grains. The facility will review, upon request
and for a fee, laboratories testing grain for the presence of
biotechnology-derived grain and will accredit those laboratories that meet
In addition, the lab will enable GIPSA to evaluate test kits against the
manufacturer's performance specifications for determining the presences of
biotechnology-derived grains in bulk grain to ensure that these tests are
accurate and reliable.
Glickman said USDA would move ahead with several biotechnology research
projects that the Committee recommended earlier: · One project will
evaluate several classes of the next generation of genetically transgenic
plants -- ornamental grasses and plantation-grown trees -- with a focus on
their potential impact on the environment and agriculture. · Another
project is a thorough evaluation of the use of sterility systems in
controlling the spread of genetically altered organisms. · The third
project is a study, in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration,
on USDA's role in evaluating food safety issues that might be raised by
biotechnology, including how potential health risks may influence USDA's
responsibilities and procedures for ensuring the safety of meat and
Subject: Science and the precuationary principle
The report of the Harvard conference on Science and the Precautionary
Principle is available at http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidbiotech/bioconfpp/
It includes audio recordings of the speakers. The abstracts used at the
conference are posted at
<http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidbiotech/comments/>. There is other material
on the website may be of interest and those interested in being on their
mailing list can to receive regular updates of reports, conferences and
viewpoints on biotechnology can contact or
Why "Frankenfood" Is Our Friend
Michael Fumento, Forbes Magazine, 12.11.00
Where's that talking chihuahua when you need him? There was no one to
calm, much less charm, consumers when genetically altered corn approved
for animals snuck into Taco Bell taco shells (forbes, Oct. 30). The fear
that StarLink corn would cause us humans terrible allergic reactions led
to a major recall. So large grocery chains like Safeway, Kroger,
Albertson's and Food Lion made their corn products disappear.
But was it a tempest in a taco shell? Unlike the rest of the biotech corn
that blankets America's heartland, the added gene in StarLink emits a
protein not rapidly digested in the human gut. A protein that does rapidly
break down has little chance of causing harm even if it is an allergen.
Speed of digestion is only important because a protein that breaks down
slowly could cause harm if it's an allergen. But the StarLink sequence of
amino acids, the main component of proteins, resembles no known allergens,
so it almost certainly isn't one.
This is not to diminish the very real danger of allergies. Each year in
the U.S., food allergies cause 2,500 emergency room visits and 135 deaths.
But biotechnology can actually be used to make allergenic foods
nonallergenic, or less allergenic, by "switching off" certain genes or by
This isn't theory. "There are several approaches," says Roy Fuchs,
director of regulatory science at Monsanto Co. "There's work on rice and
on peanuts and soybeans using antisense--turning off the gene that emits
the protein--that can reduce but probably not eliminate the source of
Scientists are trying to remove allergy-producing proteins from foods
without changing the texture and flavor. Fuchs cites ongoing experiments
to disable the offensive gene in potatoes without making fundamental
changes. If it still rolls like a spud and tastes like a spud--it's a spud.
Bioengineering is also tackling food intolerances, which can cause very
nasty illnesses. The protein gluten--found in wheat, rye and
barley--causes celiac disease, associated with chronic diarrhea. It
strikes as many as 1 in 250 Americans and Europeans, wreaking havoc in
their intestines. But British researchers are working on a process to
leave intact most of the gluten while removing the small portion that
causes the illness.
Lactose intolerance affects about 90% of Asians, 75% of all blacks and
many whites who lack the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose
protein in milk. A French medical team is trying to fix the problem by
injecting cows with a gene to make their own lactase that would be
expressed in their milk--and passed on to people.
If that little dog were still here, he'd be yelping, "Yo quiero
Golden grains of hope: A life-saving, genetically altered rice gets stuck
Sacramento BEE Sacramento, Calif., EDITORIAL (November 30, 2000)
Every year 1 million to 2 million children die because their diet lacks
enough of a single nutrient, vitamin A. Many of these children eat a diet
based on rice. If researchers figured out a way to manipulate the genes of
rice so that it naturally produced more vitamin A, many of these children
In fact, a researcher based in Switzerland, with financial support from
the Rockefeller Foundation, has developed such a rice. But it remains
locked in a refrigerator, trapped by regulatory hurdles, patent disputes
and fear-mongering politics that try to portray every genetic alteration
as a "Frankenfood." The only thing that appears unusual about the rice
devised by Dr. Ingo Potrykus is its color. The rice is golden, a signal of
all the beta carotene that the researcher has managed to pack into the
grains. As recently described by the New York Times, the Potrykus
invention is a classic example of the looming benefits of genetic
engineering. Starting with a typical strain of white rice, Potrykus
managed to add to its genes some DNA from a daffodil, pea, bacterium and
virus. For Potrykus, the discovery won't necessarily be very golden. His
deal with a biotechnology company would allow the researcher to make
royalties off the rice sold in developed countries such as the United
States. The rice would be distributed free of charge in developing
countries, however, to farmers earning less than $10,000 a year, which is
virtually all of them. Meanwhile in Switzerland, the government is
considering whether to ban the export of all genetically modified
organisms. Activists who oppose the technology shout down Potrykus at
lectures. Progress to bring this invention into the real world has been
slow. Potrykus said he had hoped his seeds would have reached farmers "a
year ago." He works on what he hopes to be his next breakthrough, a rice
filled with more iron, the key ingredient to prevent millions of
malnourished children from developing anemia. The researchers' golden rice
is not a Frankenfood. It is a miracle of modern technology. It is those
who seek to keep this rice locked away, because it doesn't fit their
ideology about the evils of modern science, who are acting like monsters.
EPA to Cream GM Corn?
by Declan McCullagh
Nov. 29, 2000 PST
ARLINGTON, Virginia -- Keith Lynch doesn't merely believe genetically
modified corn is safe for people to eat. The 43-year-old computer
programmer is perfectly willing to swallow a handful of Aventis
CropScience's StarLink kernels to make his point.
"It's perfectly safe," Lynch said between mouthfuls on Tuesday afternoon
outside a meeting of a federal advisory panel that was debating whether to
approve the controversial StarLink corn for human consumption. Lynch and a
lonely handful of free-market activists who handed out flyers titled "Stop
the anti-GM madness" were easily outnumbered, however, by some two dozen
Greenpeace protesters who shared the same sidewalk outside the Holiday Inn
Wearing cow, chicken, and pig masks, the Greenpeace protesters posed for
photographers next to a makeshift feed trough filled with corn -- not
Starlink's corn, a representative said, but the traditional variant.
"We're here to tell the Environmental Protection Agency not to approve
Starlink corn," said Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace anti-genetic
engineering campaigner. "This is genetically altered corn that's not fit
for human consumption."
StarLink was approved for use as animal feed in 1998 because of concerns
that its special protein might cause allergic reactions in humans. Traces
of the corn turned up in taco shells in September, triggering a recall of
more than 300 kinds of foods and widespread genetic testing by food
The Environmental Protection Agency asked its panel of 15 physicians,
toxicologists and other scientists to figure out whether StarLink, which
has been engineered to repel destructive pests, presents a health risk to
humans. The committee's recommendations are due by Friday, and the EPA is
expected to act soon after that. Scientists with the Centers for Disease
Control and the Food and Drug Administration said during the panel's
daylong meeting on Tuesday that they were investigating claims that the
gene-spliced StarLink corn caused rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, itching and
life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
"We're continuing to follow these people and are trying to get as much
medical information as we can," Dr. Karl Klontz, an FDA epidemiologist,
said. He presented summaries of 44 cases in which people claimed to have
suffered allergic reactions. Carol Rubin, a veterinarian at the Centers
for Disease Control, said that investigators may never be able to
determine if any of the reported illnesses were caused by StarLink corn.
StarLink's accidental contamination of the U.S. corn supply triggered a
massive recall of more than 300 kinds of chips, taco shells, cornmeal and
other foods since September. It also disrupted food production lines and
slowed U.S. exports of corn to large grain-importing nations like Japan
and South Korea. Aventis, the giant Franco-German company, hopes the EPA
will grant temporary approval of StarLink for human consumption based on
new scientific data that it says shows the bio-corn will not cause
allergies. Such approval would also help shield the company from tens of
millions of dollars in liability.
The EPA says that its existing regulations permit "these substances in
corn only when the corn was used for animal feed, and in meat, poultry,
milk, or eggs resulting from animals fed such feed." That's far too
conservative, says Chris Fedeli, a recent graduate of Georgetown Law
School who organized the anti-Greenpeace protest. "We want to protect the
future," Fedeli says. "We're expressing our opposition to the knee-jerk
hysteria to new technologies."
In April 1999, Aventis applied to the EPA for permission to sell grain
with the Cry9C protein -- one application would be the StarLink corn --
more broadly. But on October 12, 2000, after the largest bio-food fight in
history, Aventis withdrew its request. On October 25, 2000, Aventis
resubmitted its request, citing new research and asking permission for
only a four-year period.
In its submission to the EPA, Aventis compared its corn to peanuts:
"Peanuts account for the majority of fatal and near-fatal, food-induced,
anaphylactic reactions in the United States. About 1.5 million Americans
are allergic to peanuts. Given the severity, prevalence, and frequently
lifelong persistence of peanut allergy, a comparison of the potential
allergenicity of a new protein (is useful)."
StarLink corn contains the plant pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis
subspecies toliworthi Cry9C protein and the DNA necessary for the
production of the protein. Some insecticide sprays also use this protein.
Reuters contributed to this report